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FDA Warns Against Keepsake Ultrasounds

Expectant mothers have many safety concerns to consider. During pregnancy there are all the prescriptions as to what sorts of food, drink, and behavior may have an effect on the developing fetus. Then comes concerns about the safest way to give birth and whether the risks of medical malpractice, particularly birth injuries, make alternatives to hospital birth more appealing. Now unfortunately there is one more safety concern pregnant women have to concern themselves with: the potential dangers of keepsake ultrasounds. These are not the ultrasounds performed by a medical professional as a part of prenatal care. Rather than are ultrasounds performed by private businesses to create keepsake videos or photos for expectant parents.

FDA Warns Against Keepsake Ultrasounds

Fox San Antonio reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning mothers to avoid “keepsake” ultrasounds. Unlike the medically appropriate ultrasounds performed during regular prenatal visits with an obstetrician, these 3-D and 4-D sonograms are being performed by private businesses. In the FDA’s consumer update it explains that both fetal ultrasound imaging and fetal ultrasound heartbeat monitors are prescription devices that are designed to be used by trained health care professionals.

The Problem is a Lack of Knowledge of Long Term Effects

Shaahram Vaezy, Ph.D, a biomedical engineer for the FDA explains that, “Although there is a lack of evidence of any harm due to ultrasound imaging and heart beat monitors, prudent use of these devices by trained healthcare providers is important…Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles (cavitation) in some tissues.” The long term effects of the heating and cavitation are not known. The theory behind discouraging these ultrasounds is that, since we do not know what the long-term effects of them are, it is better to be safe than sorry. Especially in cases like keepsake ultrasounds where there is no medical need or benefit for the use of the technology.

Time is Another Issue

Another issue presented by keepsake ultrasounds is how long they take. Usually the ultrasounds performed as a part of regular prenatal care are fairly short-around fifteen minutes a piece. These keepsake ultrasounds, however, can take a half hour or even an hour. This is because the businesses who are providing these services are trying to get a good shot and fetuses do not always make for the most cooperative movie stars. While the short exposures to the ultrasound technology that are common in prenatal care have been found to be safe and worth the medical benefit, we simply do not know what the effects of these longer exposures may be.

Not the First Such Warning

The Atlantic reports that this warning is just one of many the FDA has issued about keepsake ultrasounds. The FDA first took a stance against this use of ultrasound technology in 1994. It again addressed the issue in 2002 and 2005. In 2009 Connecticut became the first state to ban keepsake ultrasounds altogether.

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